Facebook removes tribute to British killer

LONDON - A Facebook tribute to a British killer who shot himself dead after a stand-off with police was taken down after it sparked widespread condemnation, including from the prime minister.

But the social networking site, which earlier defended the right of the group dedicated to Raoul Moat to create the page, insisted it was not responsible for removing the material.

British Prime Minister David Cameron led the condemnation of the online tribute page, which had more than 38,000 members before it was taken down, and lawmakers and the media joined his call for Facebook to act.

"R.I.P. Raoul Moat You Legend!" was set up after the former nightclub bouncer killed himself on Saturday following one of Britain's biggest manhunts.

He was on the run for a week after shooting his ex-girlfriend and killing her new boyfriend, and shooting and severely injuring a policeman.

Cameron said in the House of Commons on Wednesday: "It is absolutely clear that Raoul Moat was a callous murderer, full stop, end of story. I cannot understand any wave, however small, of public sympathy for this man."

He was responding to a question from Conservative lawmaker Chris Heaton-Harris, who urged Facebook to remove the page.

"We don't want to set laws on Facebook at all, but we do want people who are hosting these sites and other pages to have some responsibility," Heaton-Harris told BBC radio.

He condemned the comments on the site, which include "RIP Moat. Misunderstood man who was killed by the brutal police who ruined his life", and "U are a true legend".

Britain's top-selling daily newspaper The Sun also dismissed the "Facebook morons" who idolised the killer.

"The prime minister deserves credit for swiftly passing on his anger to Facebook bosses," the tabloid said in an editorial. "How can such revolting web pages be justified? They should be removed."

The Daily Mail tabloid added: "Truly, there's a deep sickness in our society if even a tiny minority can hail this brutal killer as a 'hero' and 'legend'."

But it warned: "This paper has serious qualms about a government even hinting at censorship. Let Facebook's bosses examine their own consciences."

In the end, it appeared that the page was removed without action either by Facebook or the government.

"Facebook did not remove the 'RIP Raoul Moat you Legend' page," the site said in a statement.

It had earlier defended the decision to leave the tribute online, saying: "We have 26 million people on Facebook in the UK, each of which has their own opinion, and they are entitled to express their views on Facebook as long as their comments do not violate our terms."

Not all the members of the group supported Moat - some people posted messages condemning him.

- AFP

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